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Restaurant reviews in Tyson's and surrounding area... mostly

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Amma Vegetarian Kitchen

344 Maple Avenue East
Vienna, VA 22180

Preparing for a snowy weekend in October, I stopped by
Amma’s at lunch time on a Saturday to stock up on a variety of dishes to warm up over a few days. The two guys behind the counter offered to help with my selection, as this was my first visit and I was not familiar with the menu of “South Indian” fare. The prices on the menu seemed reasonable (read cheap), so I select a mixture of appetizers and entrees to take home. Judging by the simple furniture and d├ęcor, not much overhead is needed to run Amma’s, which is reflected in the price. The restaurant had a steady stream of customers and half the tables were full, which gave me hope that I was in for a pleasant experience and a feast of flavors.

I walked out with the following 8 items:

· 1 Starter: Vada (black lentil dumpling served with sambar and coconut chutney on the side)

· 2 Sides: Masala (spiced mashed potatoes and onions) and Aviyal (mixed vegetables with a coconut base)

· 1 Pancake: Onion Uttappam (pancake topped with onions)

· 1 Pullav: Curd rice (rice mixed with yogurt served with pappadam and pickle)

· 3 Entrees: Mysore sada dosa (crepe spread with sambar (stew of mixed vegetables) and spicy chutney); Rava paneer dosa (homemade shredded cheese wrapped in a crepe made from semolina, sprinkled cumin seeds, ginger and green chilis, served with sambar and chutney); and Potato bhaji (dried puffy bread served with a spiced potato side)

There is an extra charge of $1 per each “take out” container, although this is not specified anywhere in writing and the prices on the menu do not necessarily reflect reality because the menu says “prices subject to change without notice.” OK, moving on to the food itself.

What a disappointment. Frankly, all the entrees tasted about the same because of the overwhelming amount of cumin seeds and onion in all of them. The flavors – other than cumin and onions – were really nonexistent, and indeed these two flavors were overwhelming and boring. Between all the things I ordered, I received so many portions of the “sambar” (South Indian mixed vegetable stew), that really I was confused why all the items had different names, when they really all contained seemingly the same spices (cumin and onion) and all came with the sambar, which seems to be Amma’s signature side dish. Actually, the sambar was the only relatively flavorful dish. Other than that, there were no tangy sauces or distinguishing aromas to any of the items - they all seemed dry and unexciting. The potato dishes came with a heavy dose of onions also. In a word – blah.

In addition to the disappointing food, there was no sense of hospitality on behalf of the guys behind the desk, who seemed to just oversuggest more items for me to order. While waiting for my food that totaled about $50.00, the guys offered me an “Indian spicy tea” while I wait. The tea came in a tiny styrofoam cup and I swear was nothing more than a regular soak of a Chai tea with a drop of creamer, for which they charged me $1.72. Needless to say, this restaurant is not my “cup of tea” and I will not be returning.

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